Exclusive Interviews with Sunaana Artists

by Madi Murphy

Exclusive Interviews with Sunaana Artists

During this weekend’s Sunaana Music and Beer festival, Madi Murphy got to sit down with Axel Flóvent, Esben Rørnes of Mack Mikrobryggeri, Jófríður Ákadóttir of JFDR, and Hafsteinn Þráinsson of CeaseTone. Get the inside scoop here!

Axel Flóvent

“I lived with Axel in Reykjavik when I went to Iceland for my first co-op in January 2016. Since then, we’ve become good friends and he’s continued to regularly release beautiful music. One of the first tracks he released, ‘Forest Fires’ now has close to 24 million streams on Spotify.” – Madi Murphy

I’m Axel Flóvent Daðason from Húsavík, Iceland. I’m a musician.

How have you been liking Portland and Sunaana?
It’s been great. Pretty chill. Not very busy, but comfy. Small town vibes— which I like.

Do you know when you’ll be sharing new music next?
Yeah, unofficial, but still official, this summer there will be a new EP. A 5-track EP. Completely new songs. Won’t have ‘City Dream’ on it– which is the song I released in October of last year. It will be a new beginning. I always say that, though. Always a new beginning. I’m still working toward the album, so this EP is going to be the one that introduces the album. It’s the starting of the main thing. For me it’s going to be that. So the EP’s going to come out June or July— hopefully. If all goes well. So that’s the plan.

Should we be expecting something that’s more Pop like ‘City Dream’ or something that’s more like your first releases?
It’s quite the mix. There’s one song that’s a bit Pop like ‘City Dream,’ but it all depends on the production as well. I’m recording it next month. Then I’ll know how it’s going to sound. I’m still deciding on it. ‘Quiet Eyes’ EP was more straight up singer-songwriter, while ‘Forest Fires’ was more stripped back acoustic. This one is probably going to be— like in the ‘City Dreams’ sense — more band sounding. There’s few very stripped back songs on it.

This is a different question, but something I thought of for you recently. Have you considered composing for films?
Oh man, that’s been my dream for a long time. I’ve always said that if I can get myself into that position I will be so happy. I feel like that’s the closest thing to a normal job in this [music] world. To compose music for films and TV in general. That would be a dream.

Listen to Axel Flóvent here:

Esben Rørnes of Mack Mikrobryggeri

I’m Esben Rornes, the head brew of Mack Microbrewery (Mack Mikrobryggeri) back in Norway. We shipped some beer over to the Sunaana Festival, and I’m really happy to be here.

How did you first hear about Sunaana?
Actually, Patrick, who works with the festival, came over to Tromsø in early February with a delegation from Portland, and they met up with some Mack people. They tried some of our beers, and obviously he liked it because the first thing he did was order a pallet of beer, and quickly shipped it over here with Eimskip. He wanted some of us to follow the beer, so here we are.

I tried some, and I really enjoyed it. What makes your beer different from others?
Well, how do you stand out in a crowd where everybody stands out? So part of what we do is we try to do storytelling behind the beers. What’s unique for us is we always listen to rock music on vinyl when we brew, and we write down the music that we were listening to on the labels so you can scan the QR code on the label and you can listen to the music that we actually brewed to when we made the beer. So for the beer that we have brought to the United States, we only listened to American rock music.

That’s so cool! Which one of your beers do you recommend?
At the moment, we only have one beer here, and it’s the IPA On Tour— where ‘On Tour’ just means we’re out touring. So we started in the United States, so we listened to only American music and have the American flag on the label. I think that’s what got Patrick going.

I didn’t know anything about the musical aspect.
It’s part of our gimmick.

How long have you been doing this?
I started in the Microbrewery in 2012, and it quickly evolved into something that had something to do with two of our biggest passions— which was music and beer. We just figured out a way to include the music with the beer. So that felt like an easy way to introduce the music with the beer.

Do you think you will continue to work with Sunaana and maybe bring more beer over to the US?

Hopefully. Definitely. I’ll probably be back in Portland before the next Sunaana Festival, and hopefully we can ship some other beers over here as well. Most definitely coming back for the next Sunaana Festival, and hopefully bring some other beers as well.

Check out Mack Mikrobryggeri here (Fair warning: Website in Norwegian)

Jófríður Ákadóttir/ JFDR

“This was my first time actually introducing myself to Jófríður, but I’ve been following her work for a few years now. Björk herself listed her as an inspiration in an interview with The Guardian in 2016. In addition to her project JFDR, she is the vocalist in Samaris, Pascal Pinon, and GANGLY, and has been featured in tracks from artists like Low Roar, Sin Fang, J.Views, Lapalux, and more. I will be doing a more in-depth interview with Jófríður this Friday, March 9th live from the WRBB studio 12-1pm so tune in! She also will be performing at the Paradise Rock Club free of charge that evening.” – Madi Murphy

I’m Jófríður.

And you are JFDR and you performed with MYRO (Maine Youth Rock Orchestra) today. How did that come about?
I just asked them. I said is there a string quartet and they said yeah.

I’ve seen you perform a few times, and every single time it’s been with different people. And that was beautiful. It worked perfectly with the atmosphere and everyone I talked to loved it.

How did you get involved with Sunaana?
Lalli emailed me— he runs the festival— and we had a coffee and he explained the thing, and I said ‘yeah, I can come.’

You’ve been in the States a lot recently. Are you working on new music while here?

How are you liking Portland and Sunaana?
I think it’s very nice. Very relaxed.

Have you tried any of the beers or are you just enjoying the music?
JFDR: I tried some of the beer and suddenly I was like ‘I can’t drink more beer!’ so I had half a beer and then just wandered.

Did any of the artists stand out to you?
Yes— The Western Den (w/ MYRO)— they were amazing. And Axel Flóvent is super good.

Listen to JFDR here:

Hafsteinn Þráinsson / CeaseTone

“I met Haffi (CeaseTone) around the time I met Axel. Haffi was playing gigs with Axel at the time, so he was often at the apartment for band practice or what not. I had been listening to one of CeaseTone’s first releases ‘Full Circle’ on-repeat prior to meeting him, and he has continued to release quality material while putting on incredible live performances. ” – Madi Murphy

My name is Hafsteinn and I am head of the project CeaseTone. It started out as a solo project a couple years ago. I’ve actually been calling myself CeaseTone since 2012, and I did the Icelandic battle of the bands on my own. I was just alone with an acoustic guitar and a DJ turntable, and I was playing folky, acoustic stuff with some dubstep influence— it was really weird. It’s like an identity crisis: trying out different things. I mean, it’s good. You have to go in certain directions with your music which are really weird to find what you’re looking for. Because in that weird combination of electronic stuff and acoustic stuff I found some nice balance in the end by pursuing it. And that’s the kind of sound I like. It’s a strong contrast of instrumentation. Raw electronic sounds against acoustic elements like strings or guitar, and you can do it in many other ways.

I’ve seen you perform solo, with a band, and with a string quartet. How do you decide what you’re live setup will be?
It’s really practical to have a modular setup where you can have all these elements and just put them together the way you want. I can be on my own, I can be with the kids and a string quartet, and so on. We’ve done it with a quartet and a choir and a bunch of other stuff. And extra percussionists, and just put layers. Depending on the situation. Not every venue is made for certain setups. Some setups function better in different venues. The string quartet is one of my favorites to work with. I love to make arrangements for strings. I just did arrangements for a string quartet for pretty much every song I have. Just to be able to do that. Because that can open some doors for some interesting events.

I watch you on social media, of course, and it looks like you’ve been working on new music. Are you planning on releasing anything soon?

What I’m sharing on Instagram is just my process of finishing demos for the next album. I’m just putting in extra effort to make everything fit together as one cohesive statement of an album. Right now I’m just in this demo mode where I take the songs as far as I can in my little home studio. I’ve just recently finished getting the big picture of the album ready. I have all the tracks. And the next step is to just start all over again and go to the studio. And that’s where you take it even further. You go into even more detail. Then when you’ve done the tracking, you go even further with the producing. Maybe a step back if you feel like you’re going the wrong way, but it’s all about trying to push this to the best version of itself. Right now, I just want to do everything completely right. I have high hopes for the content I have. I want to do everything exactly how it should be because this might be the make or break or what makes this project sustainable in the end. So I’ll take my time. I would like to release a single in the summer. I have a deadline for that. But I will not do anything unless it’s completely planned out and perfect. Optimistically, the album might be out late 2018 or early 2019.

How have you been liking Portland and Sunaana?
It’s great. The people are great. The weather is exactly like at home, so that’s ok. The food is great. The beer is great. And Sunaana is a really cool up-and-coming festival in a really cool location, and I hope it’s going to get bigger.

Do you have any artists you’re looking forward to seeing here?
I did not do a lot of research. I like to be surprised. It’s fun to go into festivals blind. Just like ‘oh, what’s this? It’s really cool.’ I like to experience music for the first time in a live setting.

Listen to CeaseTone here:

WRBB’s Madi Murphy with Axel Flóvent! Check back tomorrow for the Sunaana Festival Recap

Exclusive Interviews with Sunaana Artists